Ladies and Germs, feast your eyes on Bridge & Tunnel: a series commissioned by MTV that filmed the lives of rowdy young people on Staten Island — only to be ditched and forgotten about, faster than one of The Situation's "Grenades." What gives?
This week's Village Voice cover story introduces us to sisters Brianna and Gabriella DeBartoli — two Staten Island natives who could have been MTV's Snooki and J-Woww, if the network didn't already have a Snooki and J-Woww.
In a sense, the DeBartoli sisters are the original JWoww and Snooki: sharper, prettier, kinder, more discriminating, less scatological, but no less entertaining. They, too, tease their hair and speak at high volume. They, too, vacation in Atlantic City. They, too, are owned by MTV, though you'd never know: While Bridge & Tunnel hangs in programming purgatory, the DeBartolis are hamstrung by Draconian network contracts that reportedly don't allow them to have agents or managers or even talk about any of this publicly for five years. So while JWoww shills her own black bronzer line and Snooki slams into Italian police cars for $100,000 an episode, Gabriella and Brianna have been working respectively as a secretary and a pizza-order girl in Staten Island. The papers they signed as passports off Staten Island are effectively keeping them there.
Brianna's relationship with MTV began when she applied to send her bum of a boyfriend onto Vh1's Tool Academy: a show where badly-behaved boyfriends are coaxed into appearing on a reality series they believe is called "Mr. Awesome," and instead go through therapy with their girlfriends to stop being so douchey. Although the show had already filled its quota of awful boyfriends, the casting director put her in touch with SallyAnn Salsano, the woman in charge of such reality hits like Tila Tequila's Shot Of Love and eventually, Jersey Shore. Brianna was interviewed in the Spring of 2008, and after a cast was selected, began taping in Janurary of 2009. Twelve episodes were filmed, edited, and delivered to MTV's door in October of 2009. Jersey Shore made its grand debut on December 2, 2009:
Bridge & Tunnel's premiere date was Tuesday, October 26, 2010, at 10:30 p.m. Strategic timing, since the Miami-based finale of Jersey Shore's second season would air the previous Thursday. To ensure that this information didn't leak, bodyguards shadowed the B&T cast to Atlantic City. The production crew threw a wrap dinner with the entire cast. Gabriella, who'd been skeptical about the show's future not just because a psychic told her it wouldn't air, stood up and squealed, Is this really happening?!?
The psychic was right. On September 22, 2010, producers learned that Bridge & Tunnel was officially shelved. One week later, longtime MTV execs Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley announced their departure from the network. [Jersey Shore] had just wrapped shooting its third season; and [it's] second season would debut on Tuesday, October 26, 2010, filling Bridge & Tunnel's time slot.
Ultimately, Jersey Shore's success kept B&T from ever airing, as the premise was considered "too similar" to the gimmicky guidos that were already filling MTV's airwaves. (We think there must have been only room for one fully-teased, Snooki-pouf on the network.) It's a little suspect that the network shot and aired an episode of True Life: I'm A Staten Island Girl in lieu of Bridge & Tunnel's "in limbo" status. While the cast was paid for their 12 episodes between $1,500 and $2,000 an episode — a far cry from the $100,000 per episode Snooki rakes in — there's no amount of money can fill the fame-hungry void left in these crazy Staten Island kid's hearts:
Brianna still aspires to be a music producer. Her MTV persona would have made that easier. "Now I have no connections. I have no money. I'm working a dead-end job to get the money to live my dream. I'm back to before I got that phone call. Screaming at the mall. I should have kept my job." She's all too aware of her situation. "It was all a big tease."
It's a wonder why MTV would never air the series when you consider how audiences clamored for more of Jersey Shore as soon as the series began. Too many Snook-a-likes for a single network, perhaps? Despite the contrary, we hold on a glimmer of hope that MTV will reconsider shelving the project: if a group of nostalgic twenty-somethings can convince Nickelodeon to begin airing shows that went off the air over 20 years ago, perhaps MTV will someday do the same with Bridge & Tunnel.